Pitching Is Dead: Try Content Marketing Instead

Old school marketing drives me nuts. Whenever I encounter it, I delete it, tune it out, turn it down, or fast-forward past it. And, I'm not alone.

According to the folks over at GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, 80% of business decision makers prefer to read informative articles about subjects of interest to them. What they don't like are advertisements and thinly veiled marketing disguised as something interesting.

Does this matter in the long run? It certainly does. Decision makers who are engaged in content that matters to them say that it makes them feel "closer to the sponsoring company" and "helps them make better product (purchasing) decisions."

That's why I am really excited by the attention being paid to the discipline of content marketing.

What is content marketing? According to the folks at the aptly named Content Marketing Institute, "Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience-with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

Content marketing is part science, part art, driven by something many marketers seem to be missing: common sense. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that if you want people to pay attention to what you're saying, you have to say something interesting. Simply put, content marketing is the art of communicating without selling by providing prospects with content of value to them, while resisting the temptation to slide into the pitch.

Roy Williams, the self-proclaimed "Wizard of Ads," delivers common-sense advice from his website. In a recent post on advertising, Williams wrote about how marketing and advertising today often miss the mark because they lack relevance and credibility.

"Customers ask first, ‘Does this matter to me?' They are looking for relevance," Williams says. And their second question is, ‘Do I believe what they're telling me?' They are looking for credibility."

Williams says 85% of prospective customers are intelligent people with unprecedented access to information. And as such, "[T]hey are a hard public to convince."

To be believable, Williams says, you have to position yourself as "an equally-flawed friend with whom they can connect."

Chances are you're not going to become friends with all of your prospective customers, even on Facebook. But, if you get your content marketing efforts right; if you create valuable, interesting, relevant content that informs, inspires, and yes, entertains; you may be surprised to find that your marketing isn't ignored. Rather, it is anticipated and desired.

Tom Fishburne understands this idea. He's used content marketing to attract a cadre of fans who await his weekly marketoon. "Marketoons are simple, powerful, shareable story-telling devices, and are welcome by the audiences that read them," says Fishburne. "They don't hard-sell. Instead, they link to the benefit of the brand that sponsors them."

"Marketoons illustrate some problem that the audience recognizes, so the brand can step forward as the solution to that problem. The company comes along for the ride. The cartoon is basically a Trojan Horse," Fishburne says. "People love the cartoon, and share it through their networks, and the company gets shared along with it."

Fishburne's approach works wonders. His email newsletter sees open rates in excess of 45%, miles above the industry average. When Fishburne takes a vacation (a rarity) or fails to publish his weekly content on time, his audience notices. They email, tweet, and even call him to find out where their weekly marketoon is. His clients see measurable increases in attention to their marketing campaigns, ultimately leading to brand loyalty and engagement.

If your brand is not garnering such admiration and attention with traditional marketing efforts, perhaps it's time to take a look at content marketing. Getting started is easy: Joe Pulizzi and Rob Rose have demystified the approach (and explain in detail how it works) in their best-selling business book, Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand. Grab a copy. Don't just read it-give content marketing a try. It works.